BELLMONT (Heartland Newsfeed) — A Wabash County village president is under fire following questionable actions recently taken. This comes less than two months after Gary Lance placed in the position via appointment.
Lance illegally swapped village hall locks
The first action under scrutiny is the illegal swapping of locks by Lance to the Bellmont Village Hall. The action was taken without village board approval, which is a requirement under Illinois municipal law.
Village trustee Jon King confirms this via a video on YouTube as a result:
Lance illegally used village property for personal use
The second action under scrutiny is Lance using village property for personal use. A video recording shows that Lance used the village’s tractor to spread gravel on his own personal property. The end result was to be able to park his RV and boat.
“Public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes,” states Article VIII, Section 1(a) of the Illinois Constitution. The tractor is the public property of the village, as is any fuel and wear-and-tear on the tractor.
Such constitutional violations predicate felony criminal charges of official misconduct. Officials from the Illinois Municipal League specifically wrote about this in a release in accordance with an Illinois Supreme Court decision in Illinois v. Howard.
We hold that a violation of the constitution can serve as a predicate unlawful act for the purposes of the official misconduct statute. Accordingly, the indictment against the defendant, in this case, alleging a violation of article VIII, section 1(a), of the Illinois constitution, was sufficient. As such, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court.
The definition of official misconduct is as such in the Illinois Criminal Code, Section 33-3:
Sec. 33-3. Official misconduct.
(a) A public officer or employee or special government agent commits misconduct when, in his official capacity or capacity as a special government agent, he or she commits any of the following acts:
(3) With intent to obtain a personal advantage for himself or another, he performs an act in excess of his lawful authority;
The language states that Lance’s actions have intent for political gain for himself or another individual. In other words, Lance’s personal use of the village tractor had the intent of personal advantage. Additionally, it allows Lance to avoid the use of a shovel and rake or hiring someone to spread the gravel.
Moreover, some villagers indicated in a report with Illinois Leaks that an ordinance allows residents to “rent” the tractor. However, that ordinance or policy is invalid as it violates the Illinois Constitution. Additionally, a public body cannot enact or pass ordinances or policies in violation of state law.
Lance threatens Illinois Leaks and Edgar County Watchdogs
During an investigation arranged by Illinois Leaks, in conjunction with Edgar County Watchdogs, Lance threatens the investigator and calls the police on him.
The key line from Lance: “Howdy, I outta whoop yer ass.”
Lance proceeds to call Wabash County Sheriff’s Department. As a result, this is what unfolds when the deputy arrives:
Lance files for “Stalking Order”, despite his own wrongdoing
Lance filed a “Motion for Stalking/No Contact Order” in Wabash County court. The order targets King and four residents — Bill Eblen, Susan and David King and Amber Banks.
Lance was spreading gravel in his yard, with the video recording later made available on social media. The video includes the caption “Tyrant Bellmont Mayor”.
Lance alleges this as “stalking”, but there is very little to nothing he can do about him being accountable for his actions. Residents blowing the whistle on local corruption is under protection via the First Amendment.
Videos and photos are courtesy of Illinois Leaks and Edgar County Watchdogs.
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Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.